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Scientist creates insulin patch

Gerald Fitzgibbon (centre right) receives awards for the at Euroscience Open Forum 2012

Gerald Fitzgibbon (centre right) receives awards for the at Euroscience Open Forum 2012

A KILDARE scientist has helped to develop a ground-breaking new treatment for diabetes that could mean the end of insulin needles and pumps.

The insulin patch has been developed by Kildare Town man Gerald Fitzgibbon, a chemist with Magnetar Medical Devices at Trinity Technology and Enterprise Centre in Dublin.

“It is difficult to deliver insulin across the skin,” he told the Leinster Leader, explaining that the patch uses a small electrical current to allow the insulin to pass through.

Mr Fitzgibbon has been working on developing the patch for nearly 20 years, alongside John Corish and Kevin Paterson, who is also originally from Kildare Town.

The new technology is similar to that of the nicotine patch used by people who are trying to give up smoking. The patch can be worn on the arm or abdomen. The original patent of the nicotine patch is held by Mr Corish.

According to Mr Fitzgibbon, the patch is “three to four times more efficient” than other technologies used to deliver insulin.” He says the team are currently waiting to be granted a patent for the patch, a process that should take “weeks rather than months”.

They are also speaking to venture capital companies to try to secure funding to further develop the patch in clinical trials and bring it to market. However, that process means it could still be some time before the patch is available.

“If we get the funds, it will take about three years,” Mr Fitzgibbon revealed. It has already been a lenghty process.

“We’ve been working on it on and off since 1993. It is only in the last two years that we knew how to do it, but not why it worked.”

Eventually, Mr Fitzgibbon hopes to set up in County Kildare, adding: “we’ll probably take on three more people”, though that is a long term ambition.

According to Irish advocacy group Diabetes Action, one in 20 people suffers from diabetes, while one in eight people over 60 has the condition.

“Diabetes is caused when the pancreas becomes clogged and does not produce enough insulin,” explained Mr Fitzgibbon.

Insulin is needed to allow sugar in the blood to enter cells and produce energy.

If the sugar does not pass into the cells, it can lead to a build up in the blood stream.

The insulin patch can be used by sufferers of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 normally develops in children or young adults, caused by the body’s failure to produce insulin.

Type 2 mainly affects adults and is caused by insulin resistance, when cells fail to use the hormone properly.

- Liam Godinho

 

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